The Commercial Construction Process

commercial construction process

Commercial Construction Process

Far more happens during the commercial building construction process than piecing together construction materials. In fact, the building phase is only one small step in the project. The planning stages before design and construction begin are critical to prevent issues before they arise.

Experts in construction management understand how vital these planning steps are and take full advantage of them to reduce problems during the construction project. The process also continues after the construction is complete to ensure the building is legally compliant and up to the client’s standards. Let’s walk through the construction process step by step.

Step 1: The Development and Planning Phase

The most critical phase of a commercial construction project is the development and planning stage. In this step, you lay the foundation for the rest of the project. The location, budget and choice of a general contractor will all play roles in determining the trajectory of the remaining steps in the process.

Finding a Location

In real estate, location plays a major role in the cost of the project. Land, and subsequent construction costs, vary wildly in price depending on location. Areas of high demand have higher land prices for construction. However, these sites may be ideal positions for the property and the businesses that will occupy it. The chosen location must allow for easy access by those who will use the building. Both customers and employees need to reach the area with ease, especially for businesses that provide in-person services, such as restaurants or medical specialists’ offices.

Some cities have strict zoning requirements for the type of construction permitted. Therefore, before purchasing the site and starting construction, find out the types of buildings allowed. Some properties include clauses with a moratorium on construction. These prohibitions may be permanent, in cases of environmental preservation, or temporary. For example, a site may have a protected species of plant or animal or habitat that needs preservation from development. A temporary moratorium might allow the city or town time to approve the design and ensure nearby residents who may be affected are on board with the project.

wood milling

Other types of moratoriums will prevent the construction of certain buildings to preserve the existing state of an area. For instance, a city might pass a moratorium on smaller multifamily housing structures, such as duplexes or townhomes, in a downtown area. This measure may be designed to preserve the nature of the high-density downtown area. In cases of temporary moratoriums, construction may continue if the builder pays fees or fines to the city, has an inspection of the site and gets permission to build.

Utilities to the site must also meet the building’s needs. For instance, sewer and water lines must provide enough volume to meet the structure’s needs. The site should also have nearby fire fighting services and fire hydrants on site. Additionally, the area’s roads need to hold up to the expected traffic from the building.

When evaluating proposed sites, the construction project team should study the soil to determine if the structure will need additional reinforcement. And, especially if the site has a history of use for industrial buildings, they should conduct soil testing to identify any possible contaminants requiring removal. If the soil has high levels of contaminants, finding another site may cost less than the price of fixing the existing problem, depending on the area and extent of the contamination.

Lastly, the site will need a boundary survey that includes the locations of any easements and certifies the site’s elevation. If the land requires replating to subdivide it into smaller parcels, you may require approval from multiple departments in the city or county.

Setting a Budget

Planning the budget for the construction starts with understanding prices for building structures across the country. The cost per square foot for a new commercial building depends on the size of the building and location. For instance, in New York City, a single-story commercial building costs between $373 and $448 per square foot, while a high-rise ranges from $854 to $1,026 per square foot. In Los Angeles, the construction of a single-story office building averages $327 to $395 per square foot, while a high rise has a cost ranging from $458 to $688.

To avoid issues with incorrect values in your budget, connect with construction managers for planning, including help with generating accurate cost estimates for the project. A company that works in the area you want to build knows the current factors that impact costs in those areas, providing more realistic project estimates. When the construction management team takes a holistic approach, they assist with the planning of commercial building steps and the later phases. Therefore, you have the advantage of a company that can help control overall project costs, keeping the construction within the established budget.

commercial building in city

Choosing a General Contractor and Coordinating With Crew

When working with a construction manager, you can leave much of the planning in their expert hands. They provide a way for all parties working on the project to coordinate and openly communicate and keep the project on the proposed commercial construction timeline.

Step 2: The Pre-Design Phase

Some steps of the pre-design phase overlap with the development and planning stage because both involve outlining expectations and goals for the project. For instance, some may wait until the pre-design phase to coordinate the meeting between the architect and general contractor, while others may do this during planning. Some combine pre-design and planning into a single-phase and use the design phase as the second stage in the commercial building construction sequence.

Whether pre-design is a separate step or part of planning, it aims to outline the specifics of the project’s needs. The project team will determine some crucial elements that will be important for the rest of the commercial building’s construction phases, such as:

  • Number, sizes and purposes of rooms in the building.
  • Building orientation: The general orientation of the structure to local roads and utility connections.
  • Materials and equipment for construction and costs.
  • Cost estimates for the construction phase.
  • The general commercial construction timeline for outlining contracts.

Following the pre-design phase and establishment of the building’s general requirements, you can acquire engineers and outline the more specific information in the design phase.

project elements in the commercial building process

Step 3: The Design Phase

The commercial construction design phase requires detailed drawings and schematics of the building, alongside the expertise of several engineers to ensure the building’s structural integrity and code compliance. A mechanical engineer verifies plans for the internal structures of the building, such as the plumbing and HVAC system. Structural engineers make sure the plans are structurally sound. Electrical engineers design the electrical supply throughout the building. Civil engineers design connections to the local infrastructure and parking areas.

After this step, the major portions of the construction project can begin.

Step 4: The Pre-Construction Phase

Among the steps to building a commercial building, the pre-construction phase is the one that most heavily deals with paperwork. During this stage, your project needs to get the required permits and insurance for those on the site. You will also take vendor bids during this step to ensure the procurement phase meets budgetary expectations. Lastly, you should establish the field team for the project’s site work.

Step 5: The Procurement Phase

The procurement stage is crucial for preventing budget overrun. Acquiring services and materials that do not come within the project estimate will cause the overall construction to exceed its planned cost. However, the quality of those providing services and the building materials used also matter.

Therefore, you must find a balance between your budget and finding construction materials that will last. Similarly, your choices of subcontractors should include those who have records of quality. Often a general contractor takes care of the procurement phase. However, an expert construction management team ensures the general contractor properly communicates with others about the process. Open communication is essential to preventing problems caused by misunderstandings or not knowing expectations.

Step 6: The Construction Phase

Everything undertaken so far prepares for the construction process itself. The focus on preparation during the initial commercial building construction steps can reduce unexpected delays or project overruns. A significant portion of the project will involve preparing the site for the structure. This site preparation prevents future problems with the building’s structural integrity and safety. Therefore, builders should not cut corners during this initial phase.

Site Preparation

The site preparation phase of the actual construction turns the plot of land into a working job site for the next few weeks. First, planning for the construction begins with a meeting to establish guidelines such as site access, where to store materials and equipment, which days and hours work can occur, and how the construction team will maintain quality throughout the building process.

Following the meeting, the preparation can begin with the groundbreaking. Temporary work buildings and storage facilities need construction at the site. These provide locations for the management team to work from. They also give equipment, tools and materials a secure storage location.

Site preparation also involves removing vegetation from the area and excavating the site. Depending on the local requirements, proper drainage to prevent flooding at the site and in the surrounding areas may be part of the preparation stage.

Other preparation steps that directly impact the building’s structure include laying out the utilities and preparing connections for water, waste and power. Each of these components should receive inspections before construction continues.


Once prepared, the site is ready for the commercial building process. The most important part of the construction phase is erecting the building. First, the foundation is created with poured-out concrete. Next, the building’s framework goes up. The framing includes the internal components of the building that provide it with structural support. Once framed, the building needs its roof and siding. Before the internal walls go up, the electrical systems, plumbing and the HVAC system’s ductwork inside the walls will be installed.

The internal work involves setting up the walls, laying out flooring, placing windows and internal doors, installing light fixtures and painting, as required by the plans. Contractors may do additional work depending on the design plans. Building occupants will be most familiar with the internal aspects of the building because this space will be where they spend most of their time working. Therefore, these elements are some of the most crucial in the construction process.

Meanwhile, external work involves creating exterior walls, inserting windows if not already done and placing exterior doors. The work outside the building creates the impression that visitors and neighbors will have of the structure. Care placed into this stage of the project can ensure the satisfaction of the occupants and those nearby. During this stage, the temporary buildings and material storage facilities need removal.

Lastly, to complete the project, landscapers plant grass, flowers or trees on the site. These components obscure the signs of the recent construction, make the site more aesthetically pleasing and can provide color or shade.

Step 7: The Post-Construction Phase

Even after finishing the major construction process steps, the building is not completely ready for occupants to move in. One final step remains to ensure legal compliance and safety of the building.

During the post-construction phase, the general contractor must walk with you through the building. Throughout this trip, you’ll evaluate the quality of the project. If you or other inspectors find any problems or evidence of unsatisfactory work, note them on a punch list. Only after all the items on the punch list undergo corrections can you receive a certificate of substantial completion from the architect. This certificate permits you to bring in temporary, portable items such as furniture and equipment. It also allows for an official building inspection to allow for occupancy.

Passing the building inspection ensures the successful completion of the construction project. Now, the commercial structure can safely have people working inside. The company that uses the site can begin working out of the building.

Contact JRM Construction Management to Optimize all Stages of Commercial Construction

If you want a partner in your construction project who will take extra care from planning through completion, contact us at JRM Construction Management. The thoroughness with which we approach all phases of commercial construction helps us to reduce time and money-wasting delays and errors. We take planning and open communication seriously to ensure that even the most complex commercial building projects occur on time and within budget. Since 2007, we’ve helped our customers in New York City, New Jersey, California and beyond complete their projects to our high standards of excellence. Let us help you with your new building project.

drilling in a wall